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Monday, September 20, 2010

Award-Winning Come Sunday A Penetrating Look Into the Dark Well of A Mother's Grief

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As much as her preacher husband has tried to wring it out of her, the superstitions of Abbe Deighton's South African childhood still seep out on occasion. Like now. With a bad moon rising over Honolulu, she's haunted by an unshakable sense of foreboding. If only she could summon a sangoma to chant the gloom away, she would feel much, much better. But African witch doctors are in short supply on Oahu and not even the most powerful magic can change what's going to happen under the unlucky moon. Cleo, the Deightons' 3-year-old daughter, is about to dodge in front of a car. She's about to pass from this life, leaving her parents heartbroken.

While Greg Deighton, a loyal pastor who "pretends he isn't perpetually disappointed with his flock, even though it doesn't afford him the same courtesy" (23) turns to God for solace, Abbe can't find peace anywhere. Her God can no longer be trusted, her friends don't understand, and her marriage is sinking under the weight of her pain. With nowhere to turn, Abbe dwells on her tumultuous past. The ancient curse on her family seems to be alive and well. Maybe putting it to rest will dull the aching in her heart, finally allowing some hope for the future. Or maybe the secrets of the past are better left buried in the shadows of the African night. Desperate for something to soothe her suffering, Abbe travels back to her ancestral home. As Abby's profound grief meets her shocking past, she must sort through the pain of it all to find the hope that abandoned her the day Cleo died. It's a journey both savage and soothing, alarming and affirming, troubling and triumphant, an epic trip into the ruins of her own heart. What she finds will astound her and change her life, once again.

Come Sunday, a heart-wrenching debut novel by Isla Morley, takes a penetrating look into the dark well of a mother's grief. Abbe's suffering is so palpable that a reader would have to be completely heartless not to feel for her. Her selfish moping makes her difficult to like at times, but no less sympathetic. Morley's prose is striking, making her characters and settings come to vivid life. It really is a stunning debut. However, although the book is ultimately hopeful, the overwhelming despair that looms over its pages makes Come Sunday a dark, disturbing read. It captured me with an enticing beginning and end, but lost me a little in the middle when I started to get tired of Abbe's endless moping. Heartless, I know. Overall, the book was well written, thought-provoking, and interesting. Did I love it? No. Will I keep an eye open for Morley's next venture? Absolutely.

While the book didn't enamor me as much as I wanted it to, it's receiving great critical acclaim. The winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for 2009, Come Sunday was also longlisted for South Africa's prestigious Sunday Times Literary Award and became a finalist for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. Like I said, it's a stunning first novel. Just not one with which I really connected.

(Readalikes: Hm, I don't know. Suggestions?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language and some sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Come Sunday from Isla Morley's publicist in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


  1. I have a copy of COME SUNDAY and want to get to it in the next few weeks. I'm curious as to what my reaction will be. Loved the interview, by the way. We have some friends who lived in South Africa for many years and they miss it a lot.

  2. I have heard great things but..I am not sold yet.

  3. What a BEAUTIFUL BLOG!!! You hopped by mine, and now I am hopping by yours! I LOVE yours!

    You and I have some of the same reading tastes. I am now a brand new follower!

    :0) I can't wait to read more of your posts!

  4. I would love to read this book, please enter me in this contest.


  5. I've been thinking about that one! I truly love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing!

    I've awarded you the One Lovely Blogger Award! Here is the link:

  6. I would like to win this book. Thanks for the chance.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net


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